Twitter lit up with off-color jokes and memes during inauguration weekend, but there was one topic that really sent social media into a frenzy: Barron Trump.
President Trump’s 10-year-old son attracted a lot of attention Friday when he appeared on TV, frequently captured on camera as he sat behind his father at the inauguration ceremony at the U.S Capitol. Some Twitter users placed him in unflattering memes; other users immediately took such jokes to task, considering they involved a kid who didn’t ask to be in the spotlight, and children in the first family are supposed to be off-limits.
There was a particularly harsh reaction toward those in the entertainment industry. On Friday afternoon, “Saturday Night Live” writer Katie Rich tweeted that “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.” It immediately triggered a flood of angry tweets. Rich, an improv comedian who has written for NBC’s SNL since December 2013 when she was hired to work on “Weekend Update,” deleted her account after the backlash. Nearly 79,000 people signed a Change.org petition for her to be fired.
Rich has been suspended indefinitely from SNL in the wake of the tweet, according to a person familiar with the situation. Monday afternoon, Rich restored her Twitter account and tweeted an apology, though all of her other tweets have been deleted. “I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet. I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I’m so sorry,” she wrote.
SNL, of course, has a complicated relationship with Trump. Although creator Lorne Michaels invited him to host last year, the show has devoted many, many sketches to ridiculing Trump’s controversies during the campaign and after he was elected, and delivered serious takedowns, as well. In response, Trump frequently tweets about how he finds the sketch show — and Alec Baldwin’s impression of him — decidedly unfunny.
“Modern Family” star Julie Bowen (who appeared in Hillary Clinton’s “Fight Song” video last year) also received criticism Friday when she posted a series of Instagram photos poking fun at Barron’s expressions during the inauguration.
Hundreds of comments rolled in on Bowen’s Instagram photos, many of them slamming the actress for mentioning Barron at all. Bowen tweeted a defense: “I love that Barron is a kid being a kid. My kids would be a horror show at a public event!” she wrote. “Just trying to keep it light.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton, speaking from experience as a former first offspring, weighed in on Facebook: “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does-to be a kid,” she wrote. “Standing up for every kid also means opposing POTUS policies that hurt kids.”
On Tuesday, the White House press office released a statement, though it did not specifically mention Rich’s tweet: “It is a longstanding tradition that the children of Presidents are afforded the opportunity to grow up outside of the political spotlight. The White House fully expects this tradition to continue. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.”
(This post has been updated.)